Human factors in systems design

Let’s say you need to deliver a package halfway across the world and it absolutely has to get there on Monday. And it doesn’t arrive. And you want to know where it is.

What is the tracking number? This seems like a simple question. But it is not. The chances that you’ll know what the tracking number are pretty low, indeed close to zero, unless you have the paperwork with you.

So USPS, FedEx, UPS, DHL and the rest … how about we get to choose our own tracking numbers? You can check to see if there are duplicates easily enough.

But do we need tracking numbers at all. I fill out a long form with my details as the sender and your details as the recipient. While this is not unique it will return a short list and when we add in the date, or the date range, that list will come down to a handful at most and then time of mailing, cost of postage, size, weight ought to narrow things down even if the matching has to be fuzzy.

All of this is data that is captured. So why isn’t it available to me to search for and track my package?

More importantly why isn’t available to the staff at the shipping companies?

So next time you insist on having your customer carry your number around for your convenience … consider this … you have all the data. Use it. Delight your customer.

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